Fighting with Data: Creating Statistics from Scratch in Mixed Martial Arts

The challenge for most sports statisticians is in establishing better metrics and correcting existing statistical assumptions. But what’s to be done with a brand new sport with no existing data whatsoever? The rise of Mixed Martial Arts presented an opportunity to get a new sport’s statistics right on the first try through thorough research, hypothesis testing, and data analysis. In doing so, FightMetric, the official statistics provider of the UFC, answered fundamental questions about MMA: Is a kick more effective than a punch? How do you evaluate fighter performance when matches can last 15 minutes or 15 seconds? The specific answers challenged conventional wisdom about the sport, while the broader observations hold potential insight for stats beyond the cage.
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